Bug Identification Please

Interesting critter. Are you sure it is an aquatic organism and not an unfortunate terrestrial? The reason I ask is the prominant, thick, antennae on the specimen. These disqualify Chadk's photo suggestions since they have prominant mandibles (pincers) on their heads, not antennae. Could you tell if the appendages on each of the segments were legs or gills? You can also note on Chadk's photos that each segment has gills and only one on each side of each segment. They are "insects" and therefore only have six pairs of leggs. Hard for me (a retired biologist) to get any more specific on the basis of the photos and nt having a bug book with me.


Active Member
Quite a few years ago, I came a cross a number of black and yellow millipedes (identical in appearance to the picture of Harpaphe haydeniana provided by Taxon, and the second of Mike's pictures) under a bridge on the bottom of what is now called Yellowjacket Creek. I wondered at the time if they had fallen from the underside of the span or if there was some other reason for their presence in the water. Since then I have occasionally seen such millipedes in shallow water on the bottoms of creeks as well as crawling about in the rocks ashore. Does anyone know if millipedes are capable of surviving, even temporarily, underwater?


Staff member

Millipedes are outside the scope of most of my references. However, I have been able to learn quite a bit about them through some diligent internet research. It appears to me that some of the confusion concerning identification of Mike's specimen may result from it being in the process of molting its exoskeleton, but not yet entirely completed shedding, particularly on the posterior portion of its trunk. Incidentally, this is the process by which millipedes grow in length, by adding segments to their trunks. If I am correct about the state of Mike's specimen, he may have taken a rather rare photo, as I was unable to find another photo of a millipede in the process of ecdysis.

Although terrestrial, as are all millipedes, the Clown Millipede, Harpaphe haydeniana, is commonly observed crawling along the bottom of streams. They are associated with moist soils, and tend to migrate when weather conditions result in the soil becoming either too moist, or not moist enough, and are seemingly not deterred by a little stream which blocks their path. Perhaps their being unsighted is a contributing factor to this behavior.


Active Member
Thanks Roger, I think that answers all of my questions. I'd forgotten that lovely word, ecdysis. By the way, did you know that strippers, with a yen to legitimize their art (and a large enough vocabulary), refer to themselves as ecdysiasts.


Active Member
While I certainly can not top the above efforts to expand our collective vocabularies I can shed some light on the interaction of the millipede (my mistake to refer to it as a centipede) in question and our trout populations.

It is definitely a terrestrial critter (those that I have seen have been in the leaf duff of the forest floor) I too have seen in our streams. While they have been dead several times I have seen them still alive and crawling on the stream bottom (usually in eddies). Once I found one in the stomach of a stream trout (resident coastal cutthroat) but in general they do not seem to care for the taste of the millipede. Seen trout grab and reject those that have fallen in the water.

Tight lines


New Member
Mike, sorry i did not see this one earlier... that looks like a 46 toe'd black bodied yella trimmed milli-chrono-centi-pede.

At least after a few of your 16 once home brews it does...
- Dave


youngish old guy
Once I found one in the stomach of a stream trout (resident coastal cutthroat) but in general they do not seem to care for the taste of the millipede. Seen trout grab and reject those that have fallen in the water.

Cool observation. Millipedes are chemically defended and have few predators.
My dad is a retired botanist (Southern Oregon University). Once, years ago, I went with him on a field trip to the Kalmiopsis bogs in southern OR. While hiking, we crossed many streams, most of which had these millipedes in them. I was young, and excited about fishing, and thought they might make great bait. My dad told me probably not. If you sniff a live one (a rather intimate thing to do with such a creepy-crawly), you will probably smell a faint odor of almonds--a scent which cyanide is known for. Cyanide. That's what he told me! Amazing the defenses that creatures evolve.

Nitrogen can be difficult forr organisms to metabolize, so in the process they'll do all kinds of things to it to excrete it safely. Thus we end up with things like nicotine, urea, cocaine, cyanide, and many other compounds. Obviously, they have pharmacologic and toxilogic properties!